After working in the agricultural trading business as an option writer, Andries D’Alebout found that grain farmers had limited options when making hedging decisions because of delayed and limited access to Safex market updates. Having graduated from the University of the North West with a Master’s degree in Mathematics, D’Alebout used his expertise and experience in grain trading to develop the Dalevest app which is transforming market reporting in the industry.
Combining his love for mathematics and agriculture, former option writer Andries D’Alebout, founded a mobile application to provide grain farmers with real time Safex market updates.
The delay in communicating market data to farmers prompted D’Alebout, ‘Zuckerberg’ of agriculture service provider Dalevest, and his team of six to develop the application. Having grown up on a farm he noticed how his father’s decision making was impacted by the limited market information available. “I started this without knowing if it would go anywhere besides helping my father a little bit,” D’Alebout told Finweek.
The free application is a first-ever for the industry in South Africa. It has grown “exponentially” through word of mouth and social media, boasting with 2500 users across the country since its launch at the beginning of the year.
The application serves as an “information hub” providing grain farmers with JSE prices for maize, beans, sunflower and wheat. Two daily reports are released at 8am and after 12pm, when the market closes. Graphs and information about commodities, with technical analysis are also provided. A chat function is available for grain farmers to engage with each other, ask questions and share information, explains D’Alebout.
Dalevest also offers a grain trading platform. Farmers can send information about their grain which is sent to about 14 trading houses partnered with Dalevest. The farmer is then partnered up with the trading house that offers the best price for their grain. “We are sort of a connection hub too,” says D’Alebout.
I started this without knowing if it would go anywhere besides helping my father a little bit.
The market information is sourced from an in-house Reuters terminal, different companies in the US and the Chicago Board of Trade, says D’Alebout. A lot of the information is also supplied from local farmers, making the market more transparent and accessible for stakeholders.
Programming for the application started over a year ago, but the development process is continuous. Following the Facebook model, D’Alebout says updates are introduced every month and a new feature, a profit monitoring tool, is being built. One of the recent technical issues was dealing with the large volumes of users, especially during 9am and 12pm when 1500 users access the application to check prices, he says. It took a month’s worth of programming to iron out.
So far Dalevest has received positive feedback from users. “The process in which they [farmers] make decisions has changed drastically,” says D’Alebout. Although many farmers aren’t open to working with technology, D’Alebout says Dalevest’s presence on social media has connected them directly with farmers already using technology.
The application is freely available for download from Apple IOS and Google Play Store for Android. Currently, most of the revenue is generated from advertising, says D’Alebout. Businesses have approached Dalevest to partner and incorporate ideas and products with the application.
Dalevest will be hosting the Grain Farmer of the Year competition, which will be launched on 1 October 2015. By incorporating the application, the farmer with the best yield and the Safex price the grain was hedged by will be awarded the winning prize of R500 000 in August 2016, and will receive a R500 000 prize.
By making the market more transparent to farmers, D’Alebout plans for Dalevest to be the “number one” information hub and communication channel for farmers. “I started this company with the idea in mind to help the farmers in South Africa… We definitely want to be a big force in the South African agricultural market,” he says.
this article was featured in Finweek magazine.
Forty percent of cycling injuries occur when vehicles hit cyclists from behind. Unlike runners, cyclists travel along with traffic and are not always aware of vehicles approaching from the rear. For this reason, Stellenbosch-based software company iKubu designed the Varia Rear-view Bike Radar and Varia Smart Bike Lights.
iKubu was acquired by Garmin at the beginning of the year, and the tech giant will be launching these devices soon.
The Rear View Bike Radar is a red tail light mounted onto the back of a bicycle and detects approaching vehicles from 140m away, explains Marc Bainbridge, fitness category manager at Garmin Southern Africa. It is used in conjunction with a radar display or head unit. The light flashes intensely and more brightly as a vehicle approaches and shows up to eight approaching vehicles on the radar display.
The light flashes intensely and more brightly as a vehicle approaches and shows up to eight approaching vehicles on the radar display.
The radar, which took three years to develop from initial concept to final product, can be used independently or with a range of compatible cycling computers by Garmin called Edge. It will display approaching vehicles (as a dot) on the side of a screen, which will move up the screen as a vehicle approaches the cyclist, explains Bainbridge. Alternatively the cyclist can use a head unit with a flashing light – the light flashes green when there is no danger and as soon as a vehicle is detected, the light flashes orange. When there is a greater risk, or a fast-approaching vehicle, the light flashes red.
The Varia Smart Bike Lights also contribute to safe cycling. Used in conjunction with Edge products, a tail light will illuminate when the cyclist brakes, much like a vehicle’s brake lights would. This is particularly useful when cyclists ride together as a group, warning them to slow down if the cyclist ahead of them brakes, Bainbridge says. By adding a second tail light, cyclists are able to use the lights as indicators for signalling left and right turns.
There is also an option for a headlight that projects over a greater distance for cyclists travelling at faster speeds. When the cyclist slows down, then less of the path is illuminated to see obstacles closer to them.
This article was featured in Finweek magazine.
Frank Abagnale’s life as a conman and fraudster was depicted in the film Catch Me If You Can, but he has spent close to 40 years, since the age of 26, working for the FBI as a consultant to prevent fraudulent crimes. Crimes committed today are 5000 times easier to do than they were 50 years ago.
Online fraud, identity theft and cybercrime are rising and prevalent in 79% of surveyed organisations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Cybercrime costs the global economy more than $400bn (R5.1tr).
These criminals are not looking for a challenge, but rather an opportunity to attack the weakest link. This is according to International expert on fraud, identity theft and securities, Frank Abagnale, who spoke at the Experian Insight Conference held on 4 August at the Maslow Hotel. Over the years he has seen crime evolve as cyber technology was introduced.
Every security breach in companies and government offices Abagnale has worked on in the past 20 years occurred because someone did not do what they were supposed to, he says. “I have not found the master hacker. There is no master hacker.” Human error by employees opens doors for hackers. For this reason, Abagnale stresses the importance of education to fight crime.
I have not found the master hacker. There is no master hacker.
Companies should educate their employees on the importance of their jobs and protecting the information entrusted to them. “They are smart enough to do something about it, but they need to know.” Abagnale works with Experian to develop solutions and educate corporate customers and employees about fraud prevention. Education allows people to be proactive, staying ahead of fraudsters.
One of the solutions developed by Abagnale and Experian is the 41st parameter technology. This is a device authentication technology for customers transacting online or electronically. Over 100 parameters are used during the verification process, this is beyond the 40 parameters initially developed to identify individuals 20 years ago. It provides the intelligence to identify and validate any device interacting online whether it is a laptop, tablet or mobile device. The technology also detects malware that may intercept transactions.
As an emerging market, South Africa is one of the most targeted economies in the world for internet fraud. Internet penetration is increasing, but consumer education on the risks of transacting online is not as rapid. Fraudsters recognise and take a line of least resistance, says Michelle Beetar, Managing Director at Experian South Africa. Identity theft costs the South Africa almost R1bn a year, reported by the South African Fraud Prevention Association (SAFPS). Additionally research indicates that three in ten respondents surveyed in 2014 had been a victim of card fraud.
Abagnale and Beetar advise on ways consumers can protect their information:
1. Be discerning about the information shared on social media
Individuals should be wiser about the information they share. Giving away your date of birth and the location of your birth on Facebook gives the fraudster 98% of the capability to steal your identity. Fraudsters can read the information and resell it or misuse it.
Individuals should take care not to use “passport-style” profile pictures of themselves as facial recognition technology makes it easy for fraudsters to find you online. Rather pose for a picture with friends, or in a sport activity, or have the picture taken at an angle.
2. Keep a shredder
It is useful to have a shredder to discard phone bills, credit card and bank statements or any documents with personal details. Additionally, never save passwords on electronic devices.
3. Use a credit monitoring service
Having personally used one since the 90s, Abagnale uses the service to make sure no one else has used his name to make purchases. Subscribing to a credit monitoring service allows you to check your data as often as you want, and if you identify a breach you can report it to authorities. South Africans can view their credit reports for free, once a year. Individuals can also make use of an “alert” service, at a nominal fee, which will inform them via sms or email if something on their credit record has changed. You will immediately be aware if someone has tried to open an account in your name, or if someone is transacting in your name.
4. Do not write cheques
As often as you can, avoid writing cheques as they have personal details like your name, address, phone number and bank details. If a shop clerk has your identity number, it puts you at risk of identity theft
5. Protect your PC
Make sure your laptop or personal computer is equipped with firewalls and is protected with the most updated spyware or malware security. Security software comes at a nominal cost, but this is worth it relative to the cost of having your information stolen. Never click on hyperlinks, and always type out your bank or financial institution’s full web address or email.
Cybercrimes may be financial now, but the danger is that in the next five or 10 years, these crimes will evolve to terrorism and murders, says Abagnale. Currently, cybercriminals use stolen money to commit worse crimes like human trafficking, drug trafficking and child pornography. Technology breeds crime, he says. But technology can also be used to prevent crimes. “It is just a matter of doing the right thing and doing it ahead of time.”
This article was featured in Finweek magazine.
The negative impact of the current account deficit on the rand is at its highest point since at least the Russian financial crisis in 1998. This is the view of Walter de Wet, South Africa head of research at Standard Bank. He was speaking at a press briefing at the bank’s head office in Rosebank on 27 July.
If the country had a current account deficit of zero, rather than the shortfall of R189bn, the rand could have been trading closer to R10 against the US dollar, he said. At the time of writing, the exchange rate was R12.55.
SA has been running a current account deficit – and a fairly wide deficit compared to peers – for over a decade, said De Wet, who did research to see how changes in the current account affect the exchange rate. The exchange rate has a direct impact on key input costs in the economy, such as the petrol price, and therefore inflation.
The deficit is certainly keeping the currency weak.
He said while the exchange rate was much more sensitive to the current account deficit in 1999, the net impact on the currency was smaller back then because SA was running a much smaller deficit. Between 2008 and 2012, the rand was most insensitive to the deficit, De Wet said.
But since the US Federal Reserve’s decision to end its quantitative easing programme early in 2013, the rand has become more sensitive to the current account deficit, De Wet said. A country’s current account deficit is financed by foreign investment, in SA’s case, largely portfolio flows. However, this is challenging when portfolio flows are volatile, because this makes the rand volatile.
The sensitivity of the $/R exchange rate to the current account as % of GDP
The rand has also been hurt by the decline in commodity prices, which had a negative impact on the current account. Metals and mineral commodity exports, mainly platinum group metals, gold, coal and iron ore, account for around 53% of SA’s exports of physical goods, according to Standard Bank. While the lower prices for crude oil and petroleum products in turn benefit the current account balance, the proportion of these imports to total physical goods imports (at around 20%), is much less than the proportion of commodity exports to total physical goods exports.
“A simple rule of thumb would be that for the terms of trade to remain unchanged, the fall in oil prices would have to be two-and-a-half times the fall in the prices of the commodities we export,” De Wet said.
With an interest rate hike expected in the US in September, SA will be less attractive to portfolio flows, which is expected to put further pressure on the currency. “Strategically, we expect the rand to remain under pressure in the next 12 months. Tactically we expect rallies, but these are likely to fade,” he added.
The deficit has come down to 4.6% of GDP in the second quarter, from 4.8% in the first quarter, but it is likely to increase to 5.8% in the third quarter and 5.5% in the fourth due to seasonal flows, De Wet said. Inflation was likely to average 4.7% this year and 5.7% in 2016, while the economy is likely to grow by 2% this year and 1.7% next year, it said.
Current account balance as a % of GDP (forecast)
The South African Reserve Bank, which hiked the prime lending rate 25 basis points to 9.5% on 23 July, is only expected to increase rates again by the middle of next year, according to Standard Bank Research.
This article was featured in Finweek magazine.
Inspired by Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG bracelets, which raise cancer awareness, Lauren Gillis wanted to create handmade bracelets that would “change people’s lives”.
Gillis had been working on crafted gifts for conference packages since 2004. In 2008 she woke up with “Nandos!” screaming in her head, so at 2am that morning she Googled Nandos and saw that the restaurant was celebrating its 21st birthday – she took it as a sign.
Gillis contacted former Nandos CEO Robert Brozin with the proposal to partner with Nandos and sell handmade bracelets that would raise money to feed orphaned and vulnerable children. Brozin agreed and Gillis got an order to make 600 bracelets.
With the help of her domestic worker, Gillis found unemployed elderly women from townships who were willing to bead the bracelets. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Nandos got involved in working against malaria, resulting in Relate’s first United Against Malaria bracelet. Soccer stars promoted the United Against Malaria campaign and to date, R8.5m has been raised in four and a half years.
“Those were the humble beginnings and we’ve gone from strength to strength,” says Neil Robinson, who joined Relate Bracelets as its CEO last year.
After 23 years in the corporate sector, Robinson says he wanted to make a difference to other people’s lives and his own. He calls it his version of a mid-life crisis.
Cape Town-based Relate still collaborates with corporates like Nandos and charities to create awareness of important causes. Bracelets are designed to match the brand DNA or the specific cause, explains Robinson. Some brands and causes differ, but all designs are intended to establish a long-term identity.
A ‘simple but complex’ model
Each bracelet is priced at R35. A third of the proceed goes towards covering the cost management of the organisation.
Another third goes back to the community, which includes the 300 women that bead the bracelets. These women often take care of orphaned, HIV positive children, some of whom they are not related to. Some of it is invested in skills development and upliftment programmes for youth in Cape Town’s townships. Currently 27 matriculants – who have few employment opportunities – work for Relate while they receive skills training. They do courses ranging from medical and social work to soccer coaching. The plan is to empower these matriculants to find careers beyond Relate in the future.
This third also includes enterprise development. Of every bracelet sold, R3 goes toward supporting the development of small businesses that have been able to establish a footprint, but need assistance to grow.
The final third goes to charity partners, such as United Against Malaria, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Reach For A Dream and the Amy Biehl Foundation. About 65 different charities are supported by Relate. Causes are selected through a process of due diligence, says Robinson. Brands that are equitable, have a ‘solid reputation’ and have transparent financial records are selected.
Bracelets are sold via various retail partners, such as Woolworths, Foschini, Clicks, Sorbet and the Protea Hotels group. The various distribution outlets are critical to Relate’s success, says Robinson, as they ensure income annuity.
Retailers receive a small margin of the sales. The wholesale price is R25 and the standard sale price is R35. Every cent is accounted for and Relate is run as a commercial organisation. A lot of the retailers invest the proceeds in Corporate Social Investment projects. “Good begets good,” says Robinson.
More than money
The real value for Relate, however, is not in the R35, but in connecting to people and conveying its message. This echoes Gillis’ initial vision.
“[The bracelet is] actually not worth anything, but it’s worth everything,” says Robinson. People are connected by the experiences they share with the causes, whether it’s breast cancer, mental illnesses, or endangered species.
Relate does not receive donations. Ironically, it donates funds towards an enterprise development project by Nandos. “In what day and age do you have a non-profit giving back to a corporate? It’s completely turned the model on its head,” says Robinson.
Relate’s vision is to have every employed, tax-paying South African buy one bracelet each year and, in doing so, annually raise a quarter of a billion rand for good causes.
Relate faces numerous challenges. Establishing retail partnerships is difficult, with the positioning of bracelets in stores is critical to strategy. Reaching decision makers in top management of corporates to this end is oftentimes hard. Furthermore, brand upliftment, brand awareness and brand education is crucial; informing and getting consumers to understand the non-profit goal of Relate bracelets is important.
Robinson believes the business model is sustainable. Relate is currently a small brand but he says they want to grow it in South Africa’s heart. The plan is to create micro-franchises in the market that sell the product.
Relate has sold 1.7bn bracelets and raised R27m in five years, according to Robinson. In 10 years’ time he hopes Relate will be a well-known, equitable, proudly South African brand, employing 3 000 women and 270 youth, with expansion beyond the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. Relate also hopes to move beyond creating bracelets. There are plans to introduce other beaded products, while maintaining the ‘raw skills’ element of the programme, without turning it into a manufacturing plant or factory.
Relate’s vision is to have every employed, tax-paying South African buy a bracelet per year and, in doing so, annually raising a quarter of a billion rand for good causes.. “You can literally turn around some of the biggest challenges in this country,” concludes Robinson.
This article was featured in Finweek magazine.
There is no such thing as “brand loyalty” in the online retail space. If applications and websites offer subpar performance or a poor customer experience, consumers will “drop the shopping basket” and opt for a different store or brand.
It is necessary for an enterprise to ensure its applications run optimally, and to simplify operations as these factors contribute to a customer’s experience. Application performance company, Riverbed Technology offers these solutions. The company was founded in the US in 2002. It now has a 50% international market share in the optimisation space. It offers solutions to large retailers, financial services and government to improve services delivered by these entities, says Karl Campbell, regional vice-president of Riverbed, UK and South Africa.
Riverbed evaluates the retailer’s existing applications, or e-commerce and banking sites, to determine if they make a difference to the service delivered to the consumer. Problems that may arise during the transaction are detected by Riverbed. These could be related to slow speed and limited data availability that may contribute to a poor customer experience, explains Campbell.
Most retailers underestimate the importance of customer experience.
Most retailers underestimate the importance of customer experience. Consumers often choose online shopping for the convenience, they switch between retailers easily. One of Riverbed’s clients in Europe, loses up to €30m daily if applications run slow, says Campbell. When websites fall over because of increased traffic or demand, which often happens with online ticket sales, people become “frustrated”, he says. Physically, retailers can control the traffic through a door, but they need to make sure their e-commerce site can scale up to perform irrespective of the volume of business.
Retailers should also ensure they have a good returns policy to drive growth. If consumers can return goods they are unhappy with within seven days, it drives a “tremendous” amount of traffic to the website, says Campbell. More consumers are choosing online shopping because of the convenience of delivery. “But [retailers] need to have the whole supply chain to deliver [goods] quickly and be prepared to take it back if the client is not happy, for online to work.”
Regarding the adoption of e-commerce in Africa, Campbell says there is a fair amount of online retail in South Africa, but less than it is in Europe. In Africa there is often no infrastructure to get the goods to the individual, postal services are not reliable and they often can’t return goods. People browse goods online but still choose to process the transaction at a point of sale. The resistance is not with the consumer, but rather the lack of infrastructure. Where infrastructure is in place, people consume online because it is much easier, he says.
This article was featured in Finweek magazine.